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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

THE GREAT ALGORIST
should be completely restored but, owing to jealousies, was not
given a professorship in the University, although as a member
of the Academy he was permitted to lecture on anything he
chose. Further, out of his own pocket, practically, the TCing
granted Jacobi a substantial allowance*
After all this generosity on the part of the King one might
think that Jacobi would have stuck to his mathematics. But on
the utterly imbecile advice of his physician he began meddling
in politics 4to benefit his nervous system*. If ever a more idiotic
prescription was handed out by a doctor to a patient whose
complaint he could not diagnose it has yet to be exhumed*
Jacobi swallowed the dose. When the democratic upheaval of
1848 began to erupt Jacobi was ripe for office. On the advice of
a friend - who, by the way, happened to be one of the men over
whose head Jacobi had been promoted some twenty years
before - the guileless mathematician stepped into the arena of
politics with all the innocence of an enticingly plump mis-
sionary setting foot on a cannibal island. They got him.
The mildly liberal club to which his slick friend had intro-
duced him ran Jacobi as their candidate for the May election
of 1848. But he never saw the inside of parliament. His elo-
quence before the club convinced the wiser members that
Jacobi was no candidate for them. Quite properly, it would
seem, they pointed out that Jacobi, the King's pensioner,
might possibly be the liberal he now professed to be, but that
it was more probable he was a trimmer, a turncoat, and a stool
pigeon for the royalists. Jacobi refuted these base insinuations
in a magnificent speech packed with irrefutable logic - oblivious
of the axiom that logic is the last thing on earth for which a
practical politician has any use. They let him hang himself in
his own noose. He was not elected. Nor was his nervous system
benefited by the uproar over his candidacy which rocked the
beer halls of Berlin to their cellars.
Worse was to come. Who can blame the Minister of Educa-
tion for enquiring the following May whether Jacobi's health
had recovered sufficiently for him, to return safely to Konigs-
berg? Or who can wonder that his allowance from the King was
stopped a few days later? After all even a King may be per-
365